History of The College | Trinity College

History of the College

Milestones and Achievements


The first Anglican Bishop of Melbourne, the Rt Revd Charles Perry (1807–91), convenes a meeting on 26 May at which it is resolved that ‘a Collegiate Institution in connection with a Grammar School should be established in this city with a view to affiliating the former with the Melbourne University’.


A University College Committee, under the chairmanship of the Chief Justice, Sir William Stawell (1815–1889), agrees that ‘steps should be taken for the establishment of a Church of England College in connection with the University, of which a theological institution shall form a part’.


The first Trustees of a proposed Crown Grant are appointed on 28 July: William Foster Stawell, Charles Perry, Hussey Burgh Macartney, James Wilberforce Stephen and William Parkinson Wilson.


Trinity College is founded by Bishop Perry, ‘after the model of the English Colleges of Oxford and Cambridge’. The foundation stone of the first building, the Provost's Lodge, is laid by Bishop Perry on 10 February.


The Crown Grant for 'land permanently reserved as a site for Church of England affiliated College purposes' consisting of '10 acres, 12 perches, [in the] county of Bourke, city of Melbourne' is issued on 13 November, although it had been drafted at least two years previously. Under the Grant, the five trustees had the power to adopt statutes and regulations; this they had done, creating the first Constitution, and they, along with five elected subscribers and five members of the College, formed the first Council, which had met on 11 October.


The Revd George William Torrance (1835–1907) is appointed as Acting Principal, the first building (now the Leeper Building) is opened, and the first student, Mr John 'Jack' Francis Stretch (later to be ordained and become the first Australian-born Anglican bishop) is admitted to residence.


Trinity College is affiliated as a College ‘of and within the University of Melbourne’. The first Warden, Dr Alexander Leeper (1848–1934), takes office and introduces a system of College tutorials to supplement University lectures, thereby establishing the College as a centre of academic excellence.


Trinity College Theological School is established by the second Bishop of Melbourne, James Moorhouse, to provide theological training and ‘a large and liberal education’ for Anglican clergy.


The first residential building, designed by Frederick Wyatt and named Bishops’ (after Perry and Moorhouse) is opened, providing 23 bedrooms, 12 shared studies, a lecturer's flat, four bathrooms, a billiards room (now the Senior Common Room) and a Lecture Hall (now the Cripps Middle Common Room). This allowed the renovation of the original building to house a library, chapel and dining hall.


The first (temporary) Dining Hall is completed to a design by W Pritchard. The present stone structure and wooden furniture date from 1925, when extensions were made and new kitchen facilities added. The high table extension to the east was completed in 1955.


The first female student, Lilian Helen Alexander, is admitted to the College as a non-resident. Trinity becomes the first university college in Australia to admit women.


Trinity College Hostel (later Janet Clarke Hall) established as the women’s residential section of the College, Australia’s first residential college provision for women. The Revd T Jollie Smith (1858–1927) is appointed as the Hostel's first Principal.


The Clarke Buildings are completed. Designed by Edmund Blacket and named after the principal donors, Sir William Clarke and his brother Joseph, the building contained bedrooms and studies for 24 students, tutors' flats, a new billiards room and the Junior Common Room. Work was completed by Blacket's son Arthur, who added a further 10 student rooms.


The Janet Clarke Building of the Trinity College Hostel is opened.


The foundation stone is laid for the College Chapel, built to a design by Alexander North and funded by a donation from Mr John Sutcliffe Horsfall, in memory of his daughter Edith Carington. Building is completed in October 1915 and the Chapel of the Holy Trinity is consecrated on 24 November 1917.


Mr (later Sir) John Clifford Valentine Behan (1881–1957) is appointed as the second Warden.


The Trinity College Women's Hostel is renamed Janet Clarke Hall.


The Trinity College (Melbourne) Trusts Corporation, a company limited by guarantee, is formed to manage endowment funds.


The first Trinity College Act is passed by the Victorian Parliament, under which the lands of the Crown Grant are transferred from the trustees to the Trusts Corporation.


The Behan residential building is opened. It is unusual for the time in providing larger rooms that served both as bedroom and study, and is the only Trinity building to be based on the Oxbridge 'staircase' model rather than corridors. The building was extended slightly in 1964.


During World War II, the Leeper Building is used as the Headquarters of the Royal Australian Air Force School of Administration, and up to 225 Air Force trainees are barracked in the College. Residents are requested to share bedrooms to provide the necessary accommodation.


Mr Ronald William Trafford Cowan (1914–1964) is appointed as the third Warden.


The second Trinity College Act is passed, granting the College power to mortgate or otherwise deal with its land independently, although only with the assent of the state Governor-in-Council.


The Memorial Building, a residential block built partially with donations given for a memorial to those College members killed during World War II, is opened. It is known from the outset as 'Jeopardy'.


Janet Clarke Hall becomes a separate College, although women continue to participate in tutorials at Trinity.


Professor Robin Lorimer Sharwood (b. 1931) takes office as the fourth Warden. The Cowan residential building is opened, providing over 60 new rooms.


Women are admitted to full co-residence at Trinity College. The Revd Dr Evan Laurie Burge commences as the fifth Warden.


The third Trinity College Act is passed by the Victorian Parliament, dissolving the Trinity College (Melbourne) Trusts Corporation, incorporating the College in its own right, and providing a new Constitution.


The Trinity College Foundation — the arm of the College seeking philanthropic support — is founded to foster and encourage the College’s commitment to access and equity.


Trinity College Foundation Studies (TCFS) is established to provide a first-class, preparatory pathway for talented overseas students seeking entry to the University of Melbourne.


A revised constitution is adopted under which the governance structure is modified to include a Board of Management appointed by the Council, the Council remaining as a representative body of review and consultation.


The Evan Burge Building, including a dedicated library, tutorial rooms, drama space and a lecture theatre, is opened.


Professor Donald Markwell is appointed sixth Warden.


The Trinity College Learning Innovation Centre (TCLIC) is set up to explore developments in education, with a particular emphasis on the use of technology to enhance educational outcomes.


The first two residential scholarships for Indigenous students are established. The Creative Thinking Summer School and the University of Melbourne Science Summer School are held for the first time at Trinity College; these became the Young Leaders Summer Schools in 2007.


The Revd Dr Andrew Brian McGowan, formerly Director of the Theological School, commences as the seventh Warden.


A new residential building known as 'Gourlay' is opened on the site of the old 'woodheap', providing 22 ensuite rooms for postgraduates and senior students, a tutor's flat, two visiting scholar apartments, and a multi-purpose basement facility.


Trinity’s Sustainabilty policy is formulated and the name planitgreen, Trinity’s Sustainability Projects, adopted. Rainwater tanks with a capacity of 800,000 litres are installed under the Bulpadock. A revised Constitution is adopted by Council. Bachelor of Arts Extended program for Indigenous students founded by Trinity and the University of Melbourne. 


Dedication of the renovated and expanded Trinity College Theological School, including construction of a new lecture wing and refurbishment of the existing Old Warden’s Lodge (OWL). A new partnership between Trinity College and New York’s famed Juilliard School leads to the inaugural Juilliard Winter Jazz School at Trinity.


The Trinity Institute is established to offer leadership programs for high school students, professional learning for teachers and open learning opportunities for all. As a learning and teaching initiative, all commencing Foundation Studies students are issued with an iPad. Edith Head Hall is opened in North Melbourne, offering hostel accommodation and academic support for female Trinity College Foundation Studies students.


The Dining Hall is refurbished, a new kitchen installed, heating and cooling added, lighting and acoustics upgraded and an informal dining space leading to the Sharwood Court is developed.


The Centre for Advanced Studies and a Careers and Further Studies Office are inaugurated. The division called International Programs that includes Foundation Studies, Young Leaders programs and conferencing is reorganised as the Pathways School.


The Theological School becomes an independent College of the University of Divinity. Construction of the new Gateway Building on Tin Alley commences. Professor Kenneth William Hinchcliff is appointed as eighth Warden.  Bachelor of Science Extended (BScX) program founded by Trinity and the University of Melbourne.


On Monday 22 August, classes officially commence in the Gateway building, marking a milestone for the growth and development of the College.


On Thursday 2 March, the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency General the Honorable Sir Peter Cosgrove officially opens the Gateway building.  

Full History

For the history of the first hundred years of the College, see the Centenary volume Perspective of a Century by Bishop James Grant, published by the Council of Trinity College, Melbourne, 1972.

Doubts and Certainties: A Life of Alexander Leeper by Professor John Poynter (Melbourne University Press, 1997) provides a fascinating biography of the first Warden. It is available from the University Bookroom, and other bookstores.

To purchase these books and to view a complete list of books available to purchase visit our Merchandise pages.